Evaluating Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Options

Evaluating Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Options

An individual with an addiction may not fall neatly into a set of criteria used to define a substance use disorder. Often a family member will notice that substance use has become problematic, but be unsure of the level of severity or what type of treatment is needed. The individual struggling with substance use may also have an unclear concept of the severity level because they may be comparing their own behaviors to that of other users. 

Determining whether treatment is needed may be relatively simple. Any substance use habit can benefit from an evaluation from a therapist or clinician. What level is needed to treat a substance use behavior may be more complicated.

When determining what type of treatment may be most appropriate there are two basic options: outpatient and inpatient, or residential, treatment. Not every facility offers both options, and each facility may differ in their approach.

The level of severity and the length of time since the addiction was initiated is an important consideration when choosing the type of treatment. An evaluation by a qualified professional is the best way to determine the appropriate treatment strategy.

Residential Treatment Programs

Treatment offered through a residential , or inpatient, program consists of a minimum of 28 days of stay in a secure facility. Daily activities are centered around intensive treatment. This option may be ideal for someone that has struggled with an addiction for a long time, or a patient that has relapsed following completion of an outpatient treatment program.

This type of treatment program may also be a good fit for someone that requires a challenging withdrawal period from a substance. Detoxification is often a part of the treatment program at residential treatment facilities.

Following a supervised detoxification period, the patient is ushered into a time of focused, supported, intensive treatment. Time is spent learning to change behavior patterns, as well as learning about the nature of the addiction.

One benefit of residential programs is that they feature a safe and structured setting where patients receive a high level of support. Patients are also given a respite from the circumstances or other stimuli that may encourage substance cravings.

Some patients entering treatment may be reluctant to enter an intensive experience like those offered at residential facilities. However, the level of support and focus in healing the whole body and mind through treatment can be an effective treatment option for many patients.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient substance abuse treatment can have many of the same components as those offered by residential, but the environment is structured differently. Freedom of movement is the defining difference between outpatient and residential programs. Those enrolled in an outpatient program enjoy the freedom to continue working, spending time with family and engaging in other normal activities.

In addition, the ability to go home after each treatment session allows the patient to maintain anonymity and privacy. The patient also avoids the necessity of explaining a prolonged absence from work or family life when they participate in outpatient care.

However, those that enter outpatient treatment do not enjoy the same level of safety and support offered in a residential treatment center that also insulates them from negative influences that can impact substance use. Participation in an outpatient program may require a higher level of personal focus to abstain from substance use.

One benefit of enrolling in an outpatient program is that there is access to supplemental support groups or individual counseling, as well as family counseling so that patients still experience a high level of support during treatment.

Another benefit of outpatient treatment is that patients are supplied with immediate opportunities to practice what they are learning in therapy sessions. They may experience a level of confidence after treatment because they are already practiced at applying their new sobriety skills.

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